JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown City Council will be holding a public hearing Monday for the city’s tentative $36.6 million budget.
The hearing is required by law and is part of the annual budget process, allowing property owners, residents and other community stakeholders to appear before the council to offer their thoughts on the spending plan as presented by the mayor, including offering input on possible budget amendments.
In October, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi presented an executive budget that includes a 1.7% increase in spending over the current year, bringing total expenditures for next year up to $36.6 million. The budget also includes an $83,000 increase in the tax levy – which is 0.5% higher than 2019. But despite the slight increase in the tax levy, the city’s tax rate under the mayor’s proposal would remain at $23.85 per thousand assessed value – the same amount as this year. The spending plan also relies on a million dollars in supplemental state aid to help close a spending gap.
Since the budget rollout the second week of October, the city council has received new information that could allow it to amend the spending plan presented by Teresi. That includes a $357,000 savings in healthcare costs and also more money in sales tax revenue for this year than what had been initially budgeted.
Last week WRFA talked with councilman and finance committee chairman Tony Dolce (R-Ward 2), who said the new information gives lawmakers some options to consider – although the council will only likely use about $150,000 of that projected health insurance savings.
“We were cautioned to budget very conservatively and carefully. We could look at taking that $150,000 or more to put toward a decrease to the tax rate, which could be pretty significant and would get us under the constitutional tax limit for the first time in a couple of years, or we could use some of that money to restore some of the funding in some city departments or other areas” Dolce said.
In addition to the healthcare savings, Dolce said the city is also looking at higher than anticipated sales tax revenue.
“It’s very good news. I think we are up 6% from the third quarter of last year and we were already up [in the first two quarters] so we are up significantly. That could factor in to our estimates for our projected sales tax for next year,” Dolce said. “Again, that could add to more savings in the form of a property tax reduction or restoring funding for specific departments.”
In addition to using the projected savings for a property tax reduction, the city council could use some of the money to either hire more employees in the police and fire departments, or even restore funding for the James Prendergast Library. The mayor’s current budget proposal calls for the library to receive $60,000 in 2020. That’s up $10,000 from the current year but still $290,000 lower from where it was in 2017. The library is in danger of losing $110,000 in state aid unless it can see a restoration in the local share of revenue it gets from the city.
The city council has until Dec. 1 to make any amendments to the city budget and vote on a final spending plan for next year.
Monday’s public hearing on the budget begins at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers on the 2nd floor of city hall. In addition, the city council will also continue its budget review and discussion. That review will include meeting with library officials at 6:30 p.m. in the mayor’s conference room – 4th floor of city hall. All meetings are open to the public.